Microsoft software is being acquired by state organizations and firms in Russia and Crimea despite sanctions barring US-based companies from doing business with them, official documents show.
Some of the users gave Microsoft fictitious data about their identity, people involved in the transactions, exploiting a gap in the US company’s ability to keep its products out of their hands.
The products in each case were sold via third parties and Reuters has no evidence that Microsoft sold products directly to entities hit by the sanctions.“Microsoft has a strong commitment to complying with legal requirements and we have been looking into this matter in recent weeks”, a Microsoft representative said.
“We have robust trade compliance processes around the world to help ensure that our partners comply with all conditions including immediate halting of suspected improper sales by partners, and strong measures to try to prevent banned customers from accessing and using our products and services.”
All state organizations and state firms are obliged to disclose purchases they make on the procurement database.
State entities in Russia and Crimea that are subject to sanctions have acquired more than 5,000 Microsoft products worth about 60 million rubles ($1.03 million).
The sum is relatively small but such software is vital for many firms and organizations in Russia and Crimea to operate. The database also does not include private companies, so the scale of the problem could be much bigger.
Among entities hit by sanctions that acquired Microsoft products was Almaz-Antey, manufacturer of the BUK surface-to-air missile. Dutch prosecutors say a BUK missile brought down a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet over east Ukraine in July 2014, though Russia denies its forces shot down the plane.
Other Microsoft buyers, the database shows, include Glavgosexpertiza, a state design agency involved in work on a new bridge from Russia to Crimea and the “Krym” health spa in Crimea owned by Russia’s defence ministry.
The arms manufacturer, Almaz-Antey, did not respond to a request for comment. The defense ministry’s health spa in Crimea declined to comment. Glavgosexpertiza said “the company operates within the Russian legal framework”.
The “Morye” shipyard, based in Crimea, bought 150 Windows Server, SQL Server and Office licenses in June 2016 from OOO Web-Potok, a firm registered in Moscow, the procurement database shows. All the products were “Open Licence Program” services.
The shipyard fell under the general prohibition on transactions by U.S. firms with entities in Crimea and is now on the “special designated nationals” list.
So why isn't desktop Linux cleaning up in Russia at the moment? It is somewhat telling that the Russians would rather sneak in illegal software rather than use something free and legal.